Celtic Zodiac – The Reed

The Reed

10/28 – 11/24: The Druids believed the Reed to be a tree because of its dense system of roots. Cut reeds were used as pens and symbolized wisdom and scholarship. Identified with the submerged or hidden Dryad, the Reed was representative of the mysteries of death. It was associated with being both a saviour and a custodian as well as a symbol of royalty. It was used in the making of instruments such as flutes and pipes. Pan, the Greek God of Herds, Fertility and Male Sexuality (whose name is the root word of “panic”), is often depicted playing a syrinx…a pipe comprised of seven reeds. Traditionally a nomadic people, the Celts camped in one area throughout the Winter months and would break camp in the Spring when the first yellow blooms appeared on the Reed. The Reed was once believed to bring order out of chaos and legend holds that a Reed was thrust into Christ’s hand when he was mockingly robed in purple.

The Reed grows in silence, thin and slender, by watersides and marshlands, standing in clumps at the edge of rivers. It is representative of arrows that fly up into the unknown air to land at the very source of that which is being sought, symbolic of the direct approach required when confronting a dilemma…whether that dilemma comes from within or without. The Reed expressed the desire to search out basic truths and was also symbolic of music. Within many woodwind instruments, the Reed will create a balance. Even in today’s world, the Reed is often used to thatch the roofs of houses, once being representative of the protection it offered to all of Nature’s creatures, whether domestic or wild. Weavers often used the Reed to separate the threads they once spun and its leaves were frequently used to fashion baskets and floor mats. Some cultures (such as the Marsh Arabs of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates) built entire houses and even mosques from Reeds. Natives of the American SouthWest once made arrow shafts from the Reed’s woody culms and, in more modern times, small beds of Reeds are sometimes planted to purify domestic sewage.

Though often used with great imprecision, the term “Reed” as it applies to the Ogham is the Common Reed or Broom, a giant grass with stems which can grow to be 12 feet tall. It is found in abundance in the British Isles, usually in marshy areas where it often forms dense stands and blooms with yellow pod-shaped flowers. As with most other grasses, the vertical stems of the Reed (which can be very thick and strong) live only for a single year, dying in the Autumn to be replaced with new green shoots in the Spring. The dead stems have a tendency to rattle and whisper in late Autumn winds. The Common Reed has spread in weed-like fashion throughout most of the world but is more widespread in cooler climates. As its alternative name suggests, the branches of the Reed are …

Click here to read about the Reed from Celtic Radio